Subject: Human rights group calls on Indon to disband militia in refugee camps

see ETAN's press release at

Agence France Presse May 13, 2000

Human rights group calls on Indonesia to disband militia in refugee camps


Human rights advocates recently back from a fact-finding mission to refugee camps in West Timor on Friday called on the Indonesian government to disarm and disband militias destabilizing the camps.

Stating that repatriation of the estimated 100,000 refugees back to East Timor was down to a trickle, East Timor Action Network's Karen Orenstein explained that the militias were intimidating refugees into staying.

Militia members reportedly fear the shut down of the camps and complete repatration would leave them "exposed to physical threats from both the Indonesian military and East Timorese because of what they did and what they know," explained Jana Mason, Asia policy analyst at the US Committee for Refugees.

Indonesian troops and militia groups face future trials for the gross human rights violations that took place in East Timor when the territory voted for independence last year.

But the process of accountability, Orenstein said, "is very slow and proving to be more and more flawed." As a result, few militia members are keen to return to East Timor, or allow others to return.

Moreover, according to congressional staffer Jaron Bourke who accompanied the human rights delegation to West Timor, as many as 18 percent of the residents in one camp were still in the pay of the Indonesian military.

"The fear and tension in the camps is very noticeable," he said.

"Many of them (refugees) want to go home. The main obstacle is the presence of the militia leaders," said Bourke, staffer to democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich.

"The solution would be to remove the leaders from the camps," he stated.

Orenstein also pointed out that the camps, run by a hodge-podge of non-governmental organizations and scattered across the province, were facing a health crisis.

"The health care structure is very stressed to say the least," Orenstein said, warning of a widespread outbreak of TB and malaria due to a drastic lack or health resources and a longer than usual rainy season.

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